Policing in North has its own challenges, says criminologist

© Canadian Broadcasting Corp. – Wed, 1 Aug, 2012

A criminologist welcomes the idea of a meeting between Nunavut RCMP and community leaders in Kimmirut, Nunavut.

The meeting, scheduled for Friday, follows the latest gun violence last weekend which was aimed at Mounties in the hamlet.

Curt Griffiths teaches at Simon Fraser University and advises on northern policing.

“Obviously, this is the way to go – is to engage in a collective problem-solving exercise and to bring all the parties together and strengthen the contacts between the community residents and the service providers. I think those kind of initiatives have proven to be successful in the past,” he said.

Griffiths said that generally, northerners have a positive attitude towards the RCMP. But he said the fact that Mounties are so visible in remote communities can have consequences.

“Unlike for example say in Toronto where most people never see a police officer except at a traffic stop and the police are relatively anonymous, that the police officer in a small northern community is very visible,” he said.

“Also, I would call it high-consequence policing in the sense that the decisions that these officers make have high consequences for the people who live in the community.”

Griffith said the recent incident could be from a combination of factors, including crowded conditions, guns, and alcohol and drug abuse.

He said the RCMP is only part of the solution; other agencies which can help are social services, health services and the community itself.

The recent shooting in the community was very personal for the mayor, Qinuayaq Pudlat.

The accused shooter is Pudlat’s grandson. Pudlat was also within earshot when the shooting was happening.

“I was woken up around 2 a.m., telling me there was a shooting. I heard several shots fired. It was very hard and [I was] hoping no one got shot,” he said.

Pudlat said he is relieved no one was killed or injured.

The accused is Joe Sammy Utye, 20. He is charged with using a .303 rifle to shoot multiple rounds at the police detachment, piercing the walls while two officers and civilian were inside.

Pudlat has also welcomed the planned meeting with the RCMP and community on Friday, saying Kimmirut is also looking for answers.